The Walking Dead Ep. 3 “Long Road Ahead” Review (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
(This review is based on the PC version of the game)
Picking up after a great second episode The Walking Dead struts proudly into its midpoint with a strong and powerful episode that evokes every emotion from its players and truly finds its feet in what is fast becoming one of the more powerful and interesting storytelling games of the current generation.
Starting near to where the survivors left off, Lee and his band of cohorts are still stuck at the motel with little food or hope. They’re hurting after the late confrontations at the end of the second episode and each character begins to show fraying edges around their usual personality. As with the last episode, the growth in each character is a joy to watch as we follow this group that are now three months into their survival ordeal and that minute twinkle that still shone bright, the hope of rescue still at the back of peoples minds, begins to fade rapidly as episode three whips the survivors around leading to some shocking revelations and jaw-dropping twists.
Long Road Ahead plays on the core strengths that were present in the first two episodes and begins to build on that momentum from the very beginning of the episode by delivering on the tension that has been bubbling near the surface since the opening scene of the game. Players are forced to take Lee down a path they will never see coming and some excellently placed timed scenes will force your decisions to really discover your true feelings and, in a very real sense, living the decisions you would be making by proxy through Lee.
Unfortunately, (during the reviewer’s playthrough – ed) there were a couple of audio bugs that clipped some of the sound. During certain conversations some characters would be talking loud, with some coming out at hardly a whisper. Sometimes game audio would drown out conversation and often things wouldn’t match up. This isn’t a game breaking glitch by far, but certainly ruins the atmosphere so carefully curated within the game and takes away from some otherwise excellent sound design and voice work that went into this episode.
While the first two episodes were strong, there was always a disconnect between the characters and in this episode everything begins to click and roll as a singular machine with a solitary purpose. Unfortunately, for the survivors, that purpose seems to be their downfall but as that occurs players are treated to an amazing experience that doesn’t relent throughout.
While the puzzle element makes a welcome return in this episode, with a few more actions to pad the story out a little, the strength here lies solely in where the episode dares to take players. It’s always hard to endanger children and often extremely difficult to characterise a child without seeming crass, irresponsible or looking for a cheap reaction from your audience but somehow “Long Road Ahead” walks that line tightly and keeps Clementine and Duck (the two children in the group) constantly in danger while gently empowering them and grounding them out to be characters in their own right as the season continues.
This evolution is a joy to watch and certainly adds to the strength of the overall product. While it’s fairly certain most think this is Lee’s story, it seems more likely that this is the story of Clementine told from Lee’s perspective as a narrative device rather than directly controlling the focal point of the plot.
Long Road Ahead is definitely the strongest episode to date and leaves us with a great hook for the next episode; while minor issues irritate, they couldn’t detract from what this episode achieved. At the midway point, Telltale have established their characters and have shown they are not afraid to take the road less traveled.
Their commitment to the story and player within the episode shows great fortitude and a willingness to throw the linearity of an adventure game at the wall and design a story that embraces a branching narrative shows faith in their ability, which is a rarity in itself. Episode Three of The Walking Dead game flaunts its strengths and challenges players as the momentum picks up and doesn’t ever let go with an almighty push forward to wait for the next episode to finally publish.The Walking Dead Ep. 3 "Long Road Ahead" Review (PC, Xbox 360, PS3),